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K-State's 'All Sesquicentennial' Team - Part 1

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October 22, 2013
By Mark Janssen

We're among friends here, so let's be honest just for a second.

"Sesquicentennial."

How many of you fine folks of the Wildcat Nation had ever used the word, or even heard of the word until recently as Kansas State University sets itself for its "sesquicentennial?"  (Editor's Note: That's 150th anniversary celebration.)

To be honest, yours truly hadn't used "sesquicentennial" in a sentence more than ... ohhhhh ... I'd say three times to this point in my aging life, which includes three of the first four sentences in this story.

Ses-qui-cen-ten-ni-al!

It just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?

As K-State is set to celebrate its "sesquicentennial" this weekend, in a moment of glee over putting a new word to use, "Sports Extra" decided to come up with ... drum roll please ... it's "All Sesquicentennial Wildcat Team."

Yes, it's a list of the greatest/most decorated/fan favorite Kansas State student-athletes to ever have suited up in the purple and white for a competition in the past ... well, 150 years.

How in the world does one go about forming such a sesquicentennial ... gotta love the word ... listing of the most splendid of the splendid Wildcat heroes?

Well, I'm still working on the ever-changing criteria, not to mention list of 150. But for starters, automatic positions were awarded to:
  • Members of the Kansas State Athletic Hall of Fame
  • 1st team All-Americans
  • Olympians
After that, strong, strong consideration was given to others with All-American recognition, multi-time all-league performers, and to record-holders and champions - NCAA and league.

But honestly, how does one compare the Missouri Valley athletes of nearly 100 years ago, to those of the Big 6/7/8/12 eras?

And, how does one prioritize a four-year performer to a community college transfer, or even a one-year wonder like Michael Beasley?

And while most athletes have one opportunity a year to be a champion or All-American within a team sport concept, how do you compare that type of resume to that of a track and field athlete who, in some cases, competes in cross country, indoor and outdoor track ... and in multiple events?

An attempt was made to include all the sports, but "SE" failed with some of the newcomers to the scene, plus those K-State sports of the past that maybe you never knew existed - gymnastics, softball (1986 last year), men's tennis (1986), swimming (1976) and wrestling (1976) - that faded away in the 1970s and 1980s.

One more thing about this "All-Sesquicentennial Wildcat Team."

What athletes accomplished as professionals was low on the priority list. It's a "Kansas State" listing with an attempt to consider their greatness during their specific time, rather than comparing eras.

Finally, if you're going to take it too seriously, please stop reading now. It's strictly for fun. It's also an impossible task. If you don't believe it, try to come up with your own 150 best of the best Wildcats.

For starters, "SE" will announce its Top 15 Wildcats of all time today, while the entire list will be announced on Thursday. (That will give you 48 hours to come up with your own listing.)

Oh, one more thing.

When I was initially basking in my "sesquicentennial" glory, the idea was to rank the elite Wildcats from 1 to 150. I quickly came to my senses and opted for an A to Z concept and let you folks go for the 1 to 150 at your next tailgate outing.

Here we go with the top 15 ... the absolute best of the best ... of the "All Sesquicentennial Wildcat Team."

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Elden Auker, 1930-32:  His name starts with "A" so he tops this list, but Elden Auker is arguably the greatest athlete to ever play for the Wildcats. Consider the fact that he was 1st team All-American in baseball (pitcher), All-Big 6 in basketball (guard), and, All-Big 6 in football (quarterback, halfback, safety). With the opportunity to play all three professional sports, Auker chose baseball and debuted in 1933 with the Detroit Tigers in Yankee Stadium where he struck out the first hitter he faced on four pitches. His name was Babe Ruth.

Thane Baker, 1951-53: One of the fastest Wildcats ever, Baker was an NCAA champion in the 200, plus won four Big 7 indoor sprint titles, and six more during the outdoor seasons. Baker represented the United States in the 1952 Olympics in Finland where he won the Silver medal in the 200, ran in the 1956 Games in Australia where he was on the Gold medal 400 relay team, plus won Silver in the 100 and Bronze in the 200.

Ernie Barrett, 1949-51: Led the Wildcats to their only NCAA championship game in 1951 during an All-American senior season. The Wildcats also won the Big 7 title with an 11-1 record and posted an overall mark of 25-4. Professionally, Barrett teamed in the backcourt with Bob Cousey with the Boston Celtics before returning to K-State as a coach, and later administrator earning the nickname "Mr. K-State." A member of the All-Century basketball team, Barrett's No. 22 jersey hangs in the rafters of Bramlage Coliseum.

Rolando Blackman, 1978-81: One of the most versatile offense-defense basketball talents to ever grace the floor. A two-time 1st team All-American and three-time 1st team All-Big 8 performer, Blackman's versatility is shown even today as he ranks third in all-time scoring and fifth in career assists. That's not to mention his shut-down defender abilities. Blackman helped the 'Cats to 80 wins during his four-year career. A first-round NBA draft choice by Dallas, Blackman's No. 25 jersey is retired. He's another member of the All-Century team.

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Bob Boozer, 1957-59: A two-time 1st team All-American, a three-time All-Big 7 talent and two-time Big 7 Player of the Year, Boozer's No. 30 jersey is retired at K-State. Fifty-plus years after he played, he still ranks fifth in all-time scoring and fourth in career rebounds. The All-Century team member averaged a double-double during his 77-game career at 21.9 points and 10.7 rebounds. K-State won 62 games during his three-year career, which included a 25-2 season in 1958-59 when the 'Cats were ranked No. 1 in the nation.

Mike Evans, 1975-78: K-State's No. 2 all-time scorer, Evans was a 1st team All-American, two-time Big 8 Player of the Year and one of just three Wildcats players to be a three-time 1st Team All-Big 8 performer. Evans helped lead K-State to 82 wins in his four seasons, which included three NCAA appearances and a Big 8 title in 1977. Evans, an All-Century team member, averaged 18 points per game for a career, which was before the 3-point line. Evans' No. 10 jersey has been retired

Elmer Hackney, 1938-40: Where does Hackney belong ... football, or track, or wrestling? Hackney won the NCAA shot put title in both 1938 and 1939 with respective heaves of 55-10 and 51-10. In addition, he won three straight Big 6 shot put crowns. He would have been an Olympian, but the games were cancelled due to World War II. During the fall, Hackney was a two-time 1st team All-Big 6 back for the football Wildcats, and during the winter won Big 6 titles in wrestling three times.

Kenny Harrison, 1984-88: Harrison is K-State's most decorated Wildcat athlete of all time. Topping his resume is a Gold medal won in the triple jump at the 1996 Olympics. He also was a three-time long jump/triple jump champion at the NCAA level, a seven-time indoor All-American, a seven-time Big 8 indoor champion, an eight-time Big 8 outdoor champion, and a four-time Outdoor All-American. Nearly 30 years after he competed, Harrison still holds school records in the long jump (26-11 ½) and triple jump (56-0).

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Erik Kynard, 2010-13: Kynard saved the best for last as he earned the Silver medal in the high jump at the London Olympics in 2012, and followed with a senior season where he averaged better than 7-6 for every competition that he entered. Kynard was a seven-time NCAA indoor/outdoor All-American, two-time NCAA high jump champion and six-time Big 12 champion. He holds the "High Jump U" school record at 7-8 ¾.

Nicole Ohlde, 2001-04: From nearby Clay Center, Ohlde was a two-time consensus 1st team All-American and three-time 1st team All-Big 12 selection. In addition, Ohlde was a two-time Big 12 Player of the Year. She ranks second in school history in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots, plus sixth in assists. In 2004, Ohlde was named the Big 12's Female Athlete of the Year. After the retirement of her No. 3 jersey, Ohlde was a first-round draft choice in the WNBA.

Austra Skujyte, 2001-02: Arguably the most gifted all-around female athlete in Kansas State history, Skujyte was a two-time NCAA champion in the heptathlon and a three-time NCAA All-American. She holds the K-State indoor pentathlon record with 4,439 points, and the outdoor heptathlon record with 6,275 points. The native of Lithuania competed for her home country in the 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics earning the Silver medal in '04 and placing fifth in '12.

Gary Spani, 1974-77: He played three-plus decades ago, but today Spani ranks as the career leader in tackles with 543 and assisted tackles with 343 from his linebacker position. Spani was a two-time 1st team All-American and three-time All-Big 8 performer for a team that went 1-20 in conference games. Spani became the first Kansas State player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. The Manhattan High product was a third-round NFL draft choice and enjoyed a nine-year pro career with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Darren Sproles, 2001-04: Sproles starred on the 2003 team that elevated K-State to a first-place finish in the conference, its first since 1934. A 1st team All-American and two-time 1st team All-Big 12 performer, Sproles holds K-State records in rushing with 4,979 yards, total offense with 6,812 yards, is second in career touchdowns with 45 and once had 10 consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Sproles was fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2003.

Veryl Switzer, 1951-53: A 1st team All-American and three-time All-Big 7 honoree as a two-way performer as running back on offense and defensive back. Switzer played in an era when he was the only black player on the team. Even today Switzer is the highest draft choice into professional football as the fourth pick in the first round of the 1954 draft as a running back. Switzer also excelled on the track as a jumper and sprinter for Ward Haylett's track team.

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Kendra Wecker, 2002-05: Wecker was a part of an astounding 94 victories during her four-year career. The nearby Marysville High School product earned 1st team All-American honors twice and was a three-time 1st team All-Big 12 selection. Wecker ranks as K-State's all-time leading scorer and rebounder, which helped her become a No. 4 pick in the 1st round of the WNBA draft. While her No. 53 jersey is retired in basketball, Wecker also starred in the javelin one spring when she won the Big 12 title, and still holds the school record at 179-9.

The complete listing of the "All Sesquicentennial Wildcat Team" will be released on Thursday. 

 
 

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh, Mark Janssen or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.